Your Strategy Needs a Strategy: 3 Tips for Event Crisis Communications

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Nobody ever looks forward to a crisis. It usually comes when you least expect it. We know that nobody likes to prep for, or even consider, the worst that could happen, but planning for emergency situations is essential to making sure a crisis won’t destabilize you.

If you don’t confront the absolute worst when planning your event, any deviation from your original plan could end up throwing you off. This could mean that a small technical issue could end in halting your entire event if you aren’t prepared. It could mean preparing for the worst if a PR crisis results from something that happens at your event. 

As you hope for the best but prepare for the worst at your event, consider these questions of crisis communications:

  • How will you communicate with your stakeholders and partners?
  • How will you communicate with your employees?
  • How will you communicate with the media?
  • How will you communicate with your customers?
  • How will you communicate with the general public?

The message for each of the above groups may be the same but conveyed differently and with varying tones. Each of these “scenarios” must be planned for, with communication strategies in place for all. If you rely on only a single backup plan, your company may suffer unexpected losses. 

As you focus on planning to be proactive, not reactive, consider each stage of your event to be sure that you are covering as many situations as possible. Remember in planning proactively, always keep your message clear and consistent. People may not always remember how a crisis started, but they will remember how you responded to it and how you told your side of the story.

When creating a crisis communications plan, here are a few steps to follow:

Audit your event for vulnerabilities

This is when you brainstorm and plan for potential crises your event may run into. As you plan your event, establish who on the team is in charge of communications if a crisis arises to minimize the effects of the issue. Be sure that everyone in your circle—your events team, marketing team, all other staff, clients, stakeholders, and any other essential personnel—is aware of your crisis strategy. 

During the team session, come up with hypothetical situations, which means covering what type of crisis would need swift attention. Remember that an event crisis could be a natural disaster, technological, organizational, personnel, etc. Keep in mind that with virtual and hybrid events, there could be more technological factors that could malfunction. 

Identify and train your spokespeople

These are the team individuals who will handle those vulnerabilities and make the most crucial decisions. Train your team as well to address crisis communications—both for internal and external conversations. As you meet with your teams in preparation for the event, coordinate the response for each communication method, such as the preferred social media platform and your spokesperson. 

The best face you can put forward when a crisis happens is a human one. You may have noticed a time when the CEO made the apology themselves, personally, such as the time when Netflix’s CEO admitted he messed up. When heartfelt, the humble and personal apology can make the most difference in the aftermath of a crisis. Decide who will be the spokesperson for your company—either your CEO or a PR person—trained in crisis communication.

While social media can be your best marketing tool, it can also be your downfall. If not handled wisely, a negative view of your company may go viral and get out of hand before you have a handle on your crisis response. Create a social media plan and assign a team who will be the only ones allowed to represent your company or answer to the social media storm. These “reps” will also be responsible to monitor social media channels and ensure that your followers have access to the latest accurate information on your company or product.

Establish a united means of communication

All members of your events team must know how to communicate in an emergency. Whether you choose to use emails, a social group chat, or get on the phone lines to relay messages, your means of communication should be agreed upon well before the day of the event.

As you work with your team, identify what situations at your event would warrant a crisis response. Although there may be bumps along the way at your event, discuss how you’d handle minor technology issues versus having to pivot your entire event plan in response to the health concerns of the pandemic. 

GET HELP TO IMPLEMENT YOUR CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS PLAN

Creating your crisis response strategy must be a priority in your teams’ communication plan. For help in formulating your crisis communications plan, contact us at Nifty Method Marketing + Events. With certified meeting planners on staff, we are prepared to guide you through the crisis communications process to ensure your event is a success.